Haplochromis sp. “blue back”
let me preface this article by stating that there is almost NO
information on these fish. The information I do have comes through
personal communication. Any and all errors should be considered
mine. As far as I know, there are only a few other people who
have this species.
Common Name: None
Synonyms: None that I am aware of.
Distribution: Africa; Lake Victoria (most likely Kenya, but this hasn’t
Size: Maximum size seems to be around 4”(10cm) for males with females
staying slightly smaller.
Colouration: Base colouration of these cichlids is grey. Males have
orange near the back of their dorsals and on the caudal fins. The
top half of their back is yellow when dominant, otherwise sub males
tend to have a blueish-grey back. The front part of the dorsal is
blueish white colour (very hard to describe as it changes due to mood.
The midpart of the dorsal is yellow, tending towards orange on the
back. The amount of yellow varies between males. Generally these
fish have a couple of blotches along the midbody that can turn into an
almost solid line when the male is excited. They also have a small line
above the midbody line but only approximately a third of the body
length, in the middle of the back. The bottom half of the body stays
grey unless the male is showing dominance or wanting to breed.
The bottom becomes almost black with some vertical stripes going up
from the bottom. These stripes get fainter as they travel up the
body. Males have the typical yellow occelli with a clear edging
around it. The anal fins are yellow. The pelvics are dark and can go
completely black depending on mood. Females have a lot less colouring.
They have the grey body with the blotches the males have, but it seems
they tend to have a few more but smaller blotches along the mid
body. They also have light yellow anal fins, and a yellowish
colour to their caudal and pelvic fins. Females can get darker as
well according to mood.
Diet: Probably an opportunistic detritus or awfuch feeder in the wild
near shore. In the aquarium it takes pellets, flakes of all sorts and
any other food given to the tank. It loves crushed snails.
Spawn size: Depends on size of the female, but in general can run from
5-40 fry. At 78°F (25°C) the fry should be released in
approximately 18 days, much the same as most other Victorians.
Temperament: Mildly aggressive, but not overly so.
Tank Décor: They like rock work or caves but don’t seem to
require these for territory.
Additional info: They show a similarity to the old blue fire fins but
are not the same. If a genus had to be assigned to this fish, they
would most likely end up being Xystichromis or Mbipia.
I personally do not like the name given to this fish as it really
doesn’t show a blue back often. The thing that stands out about this
Victorian cichlid is the fact that they have orange fins and not red
which is so typical of the Victorian mpibi. I think this is what
the name should be based on and not “blue back” which isn’t descriptive
of this fish at all. I’d like to offer another suggestion for a
name for it; Haplochromis sp. “orange-fire fin”, Haplochromis sp.
“orange-fire blue back” or even just Hap. Sp. “orange-fire”. This name
reflects more on the features that make it additionally unique amongst
the other fish from Lake Victoria.
I received these fish originally from Greg Steeves in Texas. He sent me
a box full of Victorian ‘goodies’ (These were Paralabidochromis sp.
'Rock Kribensis' "Mwanza Gulf", Haplochromis sp. 'blue back',
Pundamilia nyererei "Python Island" and Mbipia lutea 'spotbar').
Most of the fry were quite small yet. These were very small and
got placed into a small 10 gallon barebottom tank I had open. I was not
expecting as many fish as I got and so ended up placing some fish into
tanks that would be too small for them eventually. This tank was
filtered by a sponge filter and had no heat. It stayed only at room
temperature, so these fish can go lower than the recommended
temperatures. I think the bottom tanks (where they were) only got to
I later found out that these fish were quite rare and that I better
breed them as they should be distributed into the hobby. I had to
wait until they got some size on them. I was going to place them into
my 225 gallon tank with other assorted Malawians (and a few oddballs –
one Julidochromis marlieri and a pair of firemouths). This took
quite a while as it always seems that you never take as good a care
with tanks that you just don’t see often. They were given bi-weekly
water changes and fed a good flake diet, with pellets added in.
When they reached approximately 2” in size, a few were placed in the
main tank to see how they’d fare. I didn’t want to put them all in and
find out that the inhabitants of the 225g hated them and, as such,
killed them. After seeing the ones I put in survive for a week in with
their bigger tankmates, I moved the rest. I ended up with around
10 fish. It turned out that I seemed to have gotten a fairly even split
between the sexes. However, since the fish were kept in the 10 for so
long, a few did get stunted. Unfortunately it seems the small ones were
the females. I kept an eye on the situation, and it appeared that the
little ones had no problems in the main tank either.
They were fed the same food as everything else in that tank. A mix of
regular flake, brine shrimp flake and earthworm flake. This tank also
receives NLS pellets and some floating baby turtle pellets (someone I’m
related to and I won’t say who, bought these at auction and I wanted to
at least use them). Crushed snails were fought over by all the
fish in the 225 gallon. The tank at that time had a white sand bottom
with pots, rocks and some shells. There was also a Jungle Vall plant in
a pot in the tank as well. There was no direct lighting of this tank,
all it got was ambient room lighting and light through a nearby
window. This tank also got weekly-biweekly water changes
depending on my schedule.
I had these fish for over a year before I saw a female holding eggs. I
suspect that’s because the tank is fairly busy and they were just not
big enough to spawn without interruption. I stripped the female
pretty early for me knowing that these fish are rare. I tumbled
them til they hatched and kept them for almost 2 months in a small
container. When I decided to move them into a larger tank, I had
a disaster. I discovered the next day that every one of the 20+ fry I
moved had died in the new tank. I was devastated. I could not believe
what happened. Again, the female held (but not til much later), but all
I could rescue was 1 fry!!
I couldn’t believe how hard this was going to be. I ended up raising
that fry with some electric yellow fry that were about the same size.
Again…. disaster was waiting for me. Doing a routine water change on
that tank I found that the now 2” fish had jammed himself in one of the
slots of my sponge filter and had died there! I was beside myself
now. I felt like I didn’t deserve to keep such a rare fish.
It was about this time we decided to move. What an undertaking that is
when you have as many tanks as we do! The week we started to move
stuff, I discovered she was again holding. I left her alone for about
10 days and then stripped her. I got 11 fry. I was a little worried as
we were now living in another house, and most of the fish were still at
the old house. They seemed to do well. After we moved most of the
tanks, I discovered I needed to move them so I could move the tank that
their container was sitting on. I placed those fry in with some P.
nicholsi fry I had and they ended up in a 10 gallon tank. After
I’d put them together I realized I should have put them with something
different. The fry look very similarly coloured at that size. I guess
I’ll just have to wait until they put on some size for me to tell them
apart. When they get a bit bigger, I’ll start offering some around.
© Copyright 2007 Lisa Boorman<>
Cichlid Aquarium by Dr. Paul Loiselle
Aquarium Atlas: Photo Index 1-5 by Hans A. Baensch, Gero W. Fischer
Victoria Rock Cichlids - taxonomy, ecology, and distribution by Ole
Cichlids II : Cichlids from Eastern Africa : A Handbook for Their
Identification, Care and Breeding by Wolfgang, Dr. Staeck, Horst
Dreampond : Drama in Lake Victoria by Tijs Goldschmidt
To see more references on
Cichlid Book List
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